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Wireless Networking Communications Hardware

Companies Betting on WiMAX 106

PreacherTom writes "This week, two companies — NextWave and Clearwire — filed to go public and make their fortunes with WiMAX, a wireless broadband technology expected to make serious inroads into the telecom market by offering a high-speed alternative to DSL, Cable, and other current offerings. Market researcher Gartner Dataquest expects the North American WiMAX services market to swell from 30,000 connections in 2006 to 21.2 million by 2011. Could this be the new backbone of the mobile effort?"
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Companies Betting on WiMAX

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  • by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @02:22PM (#17315236) Homepage
    Sure there's the speed, that's great... but the range is key here. Ya see wirless is one of those techs where the providers have an automatic monopoly on service. Let's take the local Starbucks, the shopping mall, the airport... generally you're only going to have access to a single network in those locations. Automatic monopoly of wireless services = $40 a month service fees if you're lucky.

    Now compare this to my condo, there's generally four to eight wireless networks in range in any room of the house. Some are locked, and some are open. I have my own closed network not broadcasting it's SSID, but the point is plenty of options.

    Soon imagine a world where you go to Starbucks, the mall or the airport and you see four to eight wireless networks available. Hmmm... shall I join the local wireless business club for more than I pay for broadband at home, or shall I jump on "FreeWiMAX" instead?

    Most likely some sort of ad-supported "FreeWiMAX" network will pop up all over, also some home users, etc... with varying levels of speed and quality, but the point is the local providers have lost their monopoly of service in their areas and finally wireless charges will have to drop and they'll need to actually compete.

  • by Agent Green ( 231202 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @02:27PM (#17315310)
    Granted, we've made a ton of progress in wireless over the last several years to the point where just about everyone has or has access to a wireless connection. That's great ... but this true "broadband" experience is going to require a huge amount of spectrum as more subscribers log on, or a huge number of cells in order to provide the experience.

    The article mentions the 2.5 GHz specturm. It isn't all that much different than the 2.4 we know and love today, except that the spectrum is licensed. A lot of the other transmission pitfalls will likely remain (Line-of-Sight, etc.)

    Two factors are that spectrum is inherently limited, and the higher the frequency, the more power is required to transmit over a given distance. There is already sufficient suspicion that cellular transmissions aren't good for you. I can't imagine WiMax is going to fare much better here, but that has yet to be seen.

    While I don't ever care to get WiMax ... it'll certainly make FTTH much more competitive and will perhaps drive telcos and cablecos to step up their rollouts. Rural areas without a broadband infrastructure seem to be the most likely to benefit from this WiMax phenomenon.
  • In a word..... Maybe (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 8127972 ( 73495 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @02:44PM (#17315520)
    Rogers and Bell [] in Canada have WiMAX services using OFDM Non-Line-of-Sight NLOS wireless service. The modem is a (RSU-2510-FV) NextNet Expedience Broadband Wireless Modem which you have to rent (can't find anywhere to buy one) from either carrier. I've tried it and it works well.

    The reason why this *MAY* pan out for these companies is that even in major urban areas in Canada, you have problems getting xDSL because you're too far away from a CO and they haven't dropped a RDSLAM [] in your subdivision. However, the above services are available up to 5KM or so in any direction from a broadcast tower. I also suspect it's cheaper for telcos to deploy, plus they get the revenue from the modem rental.
  • by hibachi ( 162898 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @03:13PM (#17315876)
    I manage network operations for a large ISP in northern Canada and we use the same technology as Clearwire (not WiMAX - it is sort of a proto-WiMAX) for providing high speed Internet service. This technology is non-line-of-sight. I am not talking pseudo, I am talking the full meal deal. The technology actually depends on multipath reflection off of various surfaces, and this is what allows it to be NLOS. The fact that the frequency used is licensed means that they can be given additional power, which enhances signal reflectivity, and NLOS reception.

    We are in a fairly large city in northern Canada, and there is nowhere in town we fail to receive a signal, from a fairly small number of cells located around town. As an old-school dial-up ISP without access to cable or copper infrastructure, NLOS high speed wireless was our holy grail, and this technology delivered. The stuff is black magic, it is something to behold.
  • throttling (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zheng Yi Quan ( 984645 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @03:14PM (#17315882)
    From the demo unit we got from Clearwire, it was clear (ahem) that everything besides port 80 was severely throttled down. Web surfing? Fine. IMAP, SFTP, etc.? Too bad, can't.
  • WiMAX in Toronto (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @03:26PM (#17316026)
    I'm already on WiMAX with Rogers in Toronto for the last 3 months (disclaimer: I don't work for Rogers and lately I've been starting to hate their guts [bad customer service, nothing to do with WiMAX]).
    They market it as Internet Portable and it covers the entire city + some of the Greater Toronto Area. Basically, all you need is a power outlet to power the modem and there, you have internet access. I'm fortunate to live in a house pretty tall, so even though I'm in a valley, I can still get full reception.
    The data rate isn't too bad (1.5 Mbps) considering I used to use their High Speed Light at 1 Mbps. It cost me around CAD$40 a month (about US$30) for unlimited access. My only grip is their DHCP server doesn't assign me a hostname, just an IP, which, of course, is dynamic.
    Otherwise, it's great. When I moved from my old place to this one, I didn't need to reactivate my internet as all I had to do is unplug the device from the old place and replug it as home. I didn't have telephone or cable setup and yet I already had internet.
    Another advantage is that since it's on a licensed band, there are almost no interferences and it comes with builtin encryption.

  • by Infinivert ( 1042166 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @03:32PM (#17316060)
    My hometown was one of (if not the) first test markets for Clearwire. It's decent I guess, but cuts in and out occasionally. There's a competing company in town now (Xanadoo) offering the same technology with none of the contract garbage. --Josh
  • by SeaSolder ( 979866 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @03:33PM (#17316086) Journal
    As the subject line points out, I am a subscriber of Clearwire. Right now, they are not broadcasting "WiMAX" in my market. Portland Oregon is the only market they are broadcasting "True WiMAX". Everywhere else it's a pre-standard roll out. The only major difference is that in pre-WiMAX, there is no protocol for handing off from one tower to another. With the WiMAX standard, the hand-off is guaranteed to function seamlessly while you are traveling 60 MPH. In demonstrations, they have been able to show that it works up on to the 100's of MPH. (On Japanese bullet trains.) So, I've been using it for the past two months, and I feel I am in a good place to describe the level of service. Setup: I actually had an account representative come out to my house to check signal strength, and help me set up the service. In reality, the service is ready to go out of the box. You literally plug the modem into a power outlet, and into your router / computer, and everything sets up automatically. When you buy the service in the store, you fill in your details right there, so by the time you get your modem home, the service is all ready to go. Speed: I opted for the 1.5 mbps service, and frankly, I feel it is faster than my Crap-cast cable service, even though they advertise "UP TO 12mbps.) With Clearwire, they advertise 1.5, and you get 1.5, period. There is very low latency in the system. Service: When I signed up, I was given 3 ways to contact Clearwire. The 800 number, through the website, and the cellphone number of my account rep. If I need anything, he takes care of me. The reliability is awesome. I'm in Seattle, and if any of you saw the news reports, we had a massive windstorm last week. 100 MPH gusts, and thousands of people are still without power. My Clearwire connection never dropped. A lot of cable subscribers are still out... Other than that, I only experienced 1 service outage, that lasted for 15 mins. Portability: This is both good and bad. If I want to drag the modem around with me (7 inches tall, 5 inches wide, and 1 inch thick) I can use the service all over the area. Newer versions are supposed to be PC card size, but I'm not really sure that I want to have a 4 watt transmitter sitting right next to my tadpoles. I love the service, and I just hope that they are able to continue providing the level of service that I have come to expect.
  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:06PM (#17316550) Homepage Journal

    Wow. What a lot of unnecessarily negative comments to make. I say that because it's not like there's anything that strings them together except that they're negative. 2.5GHz requires more power! Sufficient suspicion that cellular transmissions aren't good for you! This'll require a "huge" amount of spectrum!

    Let's deal with them one by one:

    1. 2.5GHz isn't ideal, but it's fine for NLOS, almost as good as regular PCS (think about it, it's only 25% higher in frequency.) For Line-of-Sight, it's no problem at all, as the antenna you're using would be external anyway. Frequencies in the 3.5GHz are already being used for that.

    2. The phrase "sufficient suspicion" has to be one of the most misleading, anti-scientific, phrases I've heard since "Intelligent design". It's taking the valid phhrase "sufficient evidence" (which would indeed be worrying, but that doesn't exist) and replacing the word "evidence" with "suspicion" because there isn't any evidence. It's intellectually dishonest.

    3. There is a huge amount of spectrum being licensed, and it's getting bigger every few years. In addition to cellular and PCS, we've just had the AWS spectrum in the US, and the 2.5GHz range is being made available. Other frequency bands are also coming online. In addition to more efficient protocols by WISPS (including modern 3G cellphone carriers, do not forget about them), operators of cellular networks of all descriptions (AMPS/CDMA2000, GSM/UMTS, WiMAX, UMTS-TDD, etc) are putting up more and more towers, breaking up the available area into smaller and smaller areas.

    The UMTS LTE project is expecting to finalise new UMTS air interface protocols based on OFDMA and MIMO that'll increase the downlink to about 100Mbps per tower per 20MHz of spectrum, by the end of 2007. It's not hard to see with microcellular coverage in cities and lower population density outside of cities coupled with towers often as little as two or three miles apart, that's a lot of capacity for a single carrier to have.

    Will it keep up with wireline? Probably not, but most of us are happy with our 1.5Mbps DSL connections right now...

    I think WiMAX, and the technologies that compete against it (UMTS-TDD, for instance) have a very promising future. Right now, the biggest hurdle is getting people to pull their fingers out in getting the technology up, and getting the infrastructure installed. Is it a Utopia? No, nothing ever is. Do the limits of the electromagnetic spectrum have any serious risk of derailing this? Not a chance.

  • by profplump ( 309017 ) <> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:44PM (#17317092)
    It's actually very difficult to bring your own phone in for new service with most carriers. It's even fairly difficult to bring your old phone from the same carrier back in to service if it's been deactivated for any period of time. With some carriers it can be done, but they don't make it easy.
  • by njen ( 859685 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @06:06PM (#17318486)
    I am an Australian currently in Brussels, Belgium for a little while. When I wwas looking for internet connection options, Clearwire was really the only choice. I don't want/have a landline, just a mobile phone. The only other option was DSL. So apparently it can take up to 3 weeks to get the telephone company here to hook you up with a line, then I have to pay monthly line rental, then it can take another 2 to 3 weeks to get the DSL connected.


    I walked into the local Clearwire store, paid the connection fee (comes with free use of a modem which gets returned once your contract is up), brought it home, and was online an hour later. Sure I have roughly half the monthly download limit of a DSL connection for the same price, but I'd rather that than wait up to 6 weeks for the internet. I am happy so far.
  • by haggie ( 957598 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @07:16PM (#17319442)
    You were close. Here is the actual business plan...

    1) Raise a bunch of investor capital (done)
    2) Use the capital to buy out the WiMax spectrum at auction (done)
    3) Raise more money with an IPO
    4) Pay executives huge salaries and cash out overinflated stock options
    5) Watch company fail due to inherent technical issues
    6) Bail out just before company files bankruptcy or is acquired for peanuts
    7) Hit the beach

Variables don't; constants aren't.